NEW YORK — Andy Roddick has at least one more match in him before he calls it a career.
And if he keeps playing the way he did Friday night, it could be more than that.
Showing signs that his swan song could turn into something truly special at the U.S. Open, Roddick overwhelmed Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in front of a packed house at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
There was a different atmosphere this time because every match could be the last for the 2003 champion. But Roddick refused to get caught up in the sentiment beforehand, then turned the actual match into something that looked familiar during his prime — a well-planned, spirit-sapping dissection of an opponent who quickly ran out of answers.
"I had no idea what was going to happen out there, honestly, even before the match," Roddick said. "You know, I've played a lot of matches. That was a different kind of nerves than I've had before."
Roddick, the 20th seed who announced the U.S. Open would be his last tournament at a hastily arranged news conference Thursday, his 30th birthday, said he held things together pretty well during the long lead-up to the second-round match. He said he hit "a rough patch" when he walked in front of a TV showing his career highlights about 20 minutes before he walked on the court.
His coach, Larry Stefanki, saw Roddick was getting worked up and short of breath.
"Larry said, 'Let's calm down, you look like a human Hallmark commercial. Let's compete a little bit,'" Roddick said.
He did, even if his 43rd-ranked opponent hardly seemed primed for the moment.
Roddick took advantage of Tomic's penchant for falling backward after he returns serve. Roddick came into the net 33 times and won 23 from the front, many with angled-off drop shots and volleys that Tomic couldn't reach.
A clinic if there ever was one, and the third set lasted a grand total of 21 minutes.
"To play one of the biggest players in America, I was thinking about it too much leading into the match," Tomic said. "He was serving well. So I just couldn't find my way to get out of that little zone."
Asked about John McEnroe's criticism on TV that Tomic wasn't giving a great effort, the Aussie responded: "Well, I think he's probably right. Like I said, I couldn't get the racket on the ball."
Next up for Roddick is a third-round match against 59th-ranked Fabio Fognini of Italy on Sunday.
"He has a place in tennis history," Fognini said. "To play him on center court, in one of his last matches — or the last, who knows?"
Shortly after the Roddick match, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka followed with a 6-0, 6-1 pasting of No. 28 Zheng Jie that took one minute short of an hour and the crowd at Flushing Meadows was filing out by 10:15 p.m. — yet another in a series of unusually early endings this week at Arthur Ashe.
Earlier in the day, defending champion Sam Stosur and No. 3 Maria Sharapova advanced, as did 18-year-old Laura Robson with a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over 2011 French Open champion Li Na.
In the men's draw, No. 2 Novak Djokovic won in three sets, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro beat 20-year-old American Ryan Harrison in four and 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt needed 4 hours, 35 minutes for a 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4 victory over Gilles Muller.
Like Roddick, Hewitt is a former Grand Slam champion and No. 1. Like Roddick, he's in his 30s and has had his share of injuries; the big toe on his left foot was surgically repaired in May. Unlike Roddick, however, Hewitt hasn't spoken much of retirement. He's ranked 125th and willing to hang on and grind out matches on Court 11, the way he did Friday.
"Everyone is different," Hewitt said. "For me, I feel like I've done all the hard yards coming back from surgery. I sort of want to go out on my terms a little bit more."
Roddick is going out on his terms, too, with no plans to scale things back or play ceremonial tennis. He said as this summer has progressed, he felt the fire dying down and wanted to leave before he can't contend for titles anymore.
He may not have reached that point quite yet.
He showed that right away Friday by hitting three aces in the very first game — two at 136 mph, another at 138 mph — then adding two more — at 125 mph, then 134 mph — while moving out to a 3-0 lead. He was having fun, too, skipping back to the baseline after one early overhead smash, and looking up to his mother and brother and Stefanki after capping the opening set with a 136 mph ace.
While he was doing an interview on a TV set outside the court after the match, fans interrupted the conversation and shouted "One more year! One more year!"
For now, Roddick is measuring things only by the day.
And enjoying every minute.
"It's certainly nice to feel appreciated at the end of all of it." he said. "It's a humbling feeling. I mean, you know, you have twenty four and a half thousand people there to see something. It's a good feeling."
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